Plane & Simple

Get Your Swing On-Plane Now!

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So much has been written about swing plane over the past few years, that students of mine often come to me very confused about what it is. Simply put, to make an “on-plane” swing, all you have to do is swing the club on the same angle it’s at when it rests on the ground. Let’s say I’m hitting a 6-iron (which leans on its natural angle, about 45 degrees to the ground). For me to swing “on-plane,” my 6-iron has to be either right on or “parallel” to that angle throughout the swing. And that’s the simple definition of swinging on-plane.

What’s important to keep in mind is that virtually nobody swings perfectly on-plane from start to finish. What happens instead is that the club travels on a reasonable plane as it approaches the ball.

Consider Jim Furyk and Ben Hogan. Both men have very different backswings, but look very similar as they approach impact.

(I don’t suggest trying to swing like Furyk, because the closer your club travels to the original shaft plane throughout the swing, the easier it is to make solid contact.)

Why is it important to swing on-plane? Because it greatly influences how well you make contact. Depth of divot, centeredness of contact, starting direction and curvature all are influenced, if not controlled, by your swing plane. And, the better your plane, the better a ballstriker you’ll be. {mospagebreak}

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The Stand Bag Drill: Followthrough
An “at rest” stand bag happens to have the exact same angle as a 6-iron when it’s grounded. In this photo, I’m practicing my followthrough and making sure my club is parallel to the bag. I know I’m on-plane when my eyes, right arm, shaft and shoulders are parallel to it. I’ve made a good swing and stayed on-plane through the entire shot.

The Stand Bag Drill: Backswing
Similar to the followthrough stand bag drill, the backswing drill is geared toward self-gauging that your clubshaft is on-plane. Again, since stand bags rest on the ground at roughly a 45° angle, they’re the natural device by which you can measure your club’s path. Try this drill with or without a mirror to ensure your club is on-plane. Make sure your shoulders, arm and clubface perfectly match the bag angle. This is a good start for a one-plane swing.

Note the two photos—one on top of the other. In one, I’m holding a club; in another, I’m not. As
my right arm swings away, my right palm points down, toward the golf ball. When I repeat that and hold the club, it might look like the face is shut, but it’s not; it’s right on-plane. Practice without a club to start your club on-plane.

In the second half of this drill, I’ve rotated my right forearm at the top of my swing. Notice that my open hand is parallel to the clubface. Both are on-plane. You can practice “swinging” without a club anywhere, anytime.

Match the angle of the clubshaft on your followthrough to the angle
at which your stand bag rests on the ground. When they’re aligned, you’re on-plane.

It’s not vital that your backswing matches the angle of your stand bag, but it sure helps. It’s easier to make solid contact when everything is on-plane.

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In a one-plane swing, the arms and shoulders swing onto the same plane at the top of the backswing. Much like a baseball swing off the turf, the golfer can powerfully unwind without much concern for timing. It helps to stand a little farther away from the ball and to “squash the logo” of your golf shirt with your left arm.
In a two-plane swing, the backswing plane and downswing plane cross one another. Taller golfers, like Jim Furyk, who stand closer to the ball tend to have two-plane swings. The key thing, however, is that as they approach impact, their plane matches up with someone who has a one-plane swing.

Want to get your swing on-plane? Try practicing on the Explanar Golf Home Swing Training System.

One-Plane Swing: In a one-plane swing, the arms swing on the same axis as the shoulders (and the backswing and downswing travel on a similar plane). One-plane golfers tend to stand a little farther away from the ball to flatten their plane. To see if you have a one-plane swing, look in a mirror, and if your shaft and left arm are aligned, you’re on-plane. To do this, simply “squash the logo” on your golf shirt with your left arm.

Two-Plane Swing:
In a two-plane swing, the arms swing on an axis that’s different from the shoulders. In fact, they cross one another. Golfers who have two-plane swings tend to be taller and therefore stand closer to the ball and have a more upright backswing. If you’ve ever seen Jim Furyk swing, you know what I’m talking about. The key takeaway for you if you have a two-plane swing is that your downswing plane is flatter than your backswing plane. (Otherwise, you’ll come over the top and hit dead pulls or wicked slices.) To ensure you’re on the correct downswing plane, start your downswing with your lower body and unwind your hips to the left so the club drops to the inside of your target line.  

GT Senior Instruction Editor Jeff Ritter is Director of Instruction at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz., and the author of Golf by Design.


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